Everything’s Electric

There used to be a time when I’d book things to look forwards to, places to go and events to see with family and friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen live music in an arena, music Hall or outdoor concert. If it wasn’t for tribute bands and variety acts around Dongguan, I’d have heard nil by ears.

Going home brings new opportunities. Many challenges and worries. But, as I dodge COVID-19 with the substandard Sinovac vaccination, I’ll grab some other up-to-date and tried and tested formula within a week of the ferry berthing in Kingston-upon-Hull.

Dock in Hull. First steps on English soil in a fraction beneath three years away from the U.K. Get to Manchester. Take Mum to Arcade Fire. Wander off to Gulliver’s a few days later to hear the sounds of Lael Neale (5/9). Get down to Cardiff, home of F.I.F.A. 2022 World Cup Qatar-bound Wales. Give our Liam Gallagher and The Charlatans a listen (15/9). Wait until November for Idlewild (20/11) followed by Florence and The Machine (22/11). Slot in the football at the Etihad, home of Manchester City, and seek out some comedy. And, ideally some track cycling.

“I think he’s coming home again.” – C’mon You Know lyrics, Liam Gallagher

A little further ahead it seem possible to witness the comedy talent of Henning Wehn in Stockport Plaza (18/2/23) and
Stewart Lee at the Lowry, Salford (31/2/23) with Mum and Paul.

Independence and life will hit like a brick in the face. The next steps will be clearer. I still don’t actually know where I’ll be sleeping for the foreseeable future in Blighty. My fear of becoming homeless is closer than ever. That green and pleasant land of Brexit and Conservative destruction is crumbling like the White Cliffs of Dover. It’s going to be hard to get by, but a positive mental attitude is on its way. With Panda. At least I’ll be a little entertained. Providing I can get by with extortionate gas, electric, water and council taxes feeding the fat cats.

Of course, after two weeks on crutches (with two to four more expected, provided I heal), looking forward is more important than ever. This loose cast and elevated legs daily are trying and testing my patience. I’m teaching myself resilience. Still, it could be worse. Much worse. I’ve known two friends to lose their mother in the last two years and that’s a horrible experience to witness others suffer.

A slippery apartment, wet floor tiles outdoors, puddles, whizzing electric bikes, phone zombies who don’t look up whilst walking, dog owners who can’t shuffle their poodle left a little and vomit puddles in the elevator make going to work difficult. That and showering on one leg. One leg outside as I dance, shuffle and avoid slips, trips and falls. Things broken don’t just include my right foot. 120kg of mass moving at gravity – assisted speed onto chairs, bed frames and stools generates a fair crack of sound. The crutches don’t grip moisture. Dongguan is all about the humidity these days. And heavy rain.

My second visit to the Songshan Lake Tungwah Hospital (东华松山湖医院) radiology department via the emergency department and with the help of Dr Li (李医生, orthopedic department) went okay. No huge progression after a week. Carry on with this, that and the other. Time is a healer. Thanks to Maria and her boyfriend, and Peter for accompanying me the initial time and at the sequel. The very professional hospital have been most helpful this academic year at T.W.I.S.

C’mon You Know is Liam Gallagher’s umpteenth foray into music. The former Oasis member and brother of Noel has mixed some soulful pop with bite and some catchy lyrics. It’s decent enough if you’re into indie and rock, with the usual shade of 90s and The Beatles thrown in for good taste. It definitely sounds like it should be at home on festival stages and in front of stadium crowds.

Still, I enjoyed chicken with the quad of Alice, Keisel and Laura yesterday. Panda has been walked by all three and 7 others this last two weeks. We’re having a few bumpy times but he’s still a happy doggy. Thanks go Benny, Jaime, Mr D, Nem and Aleks, Alice, Keisel, Charif, Daisy, and Maria for walking Panda. He really appreciates it too. Especially, the 5.30am walks… and the runs! Thank you kindly.

They’ll be better days.

All subject to change.

J5: University Challenged

你好/ Ní hǎo / Nín hǎo / Hello / How do,

The Marine Biology field course arrived, and with my tooth being so painful I really struggled with the work.  I submitted an incomplete report, managed to attend all the trips, but really struggled to motivate myself for the work.  It was not all doom and gloom, as I met Nicola Brown, well kind of.  I was feeling something completely different.  Her vibrant smile met my eye. I barely spoke to her but could not stop thinking about her throughout the field-course.  I felt I had to get talking to her somehow, someway, someewhere but chance never came my way, my injured tooth ruling out possibilities, and my lack of confidence to talk with her.  I did find her name via a friend, Rob Palmer, who was also in her Marine Biology field course group.  Nikki, Lisa Bates, and Rob soon hung around together very often.

 

My own football would go well for me, post tooth-extraction.  Having only managed three university Dig’s league games, a 4-2 win where I hit the woodwork twice! A 2-1 win, here I bagged my first university strike in ages!  And, a 2-1 win where I had to come off as my head was killing me!  On the 18th of November me and Rob, went to see Scouse comedian, Jeff Green (From A-Z) live at the Art’s Centre.  As comedians go he was the bee’s knees!  Rob later gave me the live at the West End DVD for Christmas, equally wonderful!.  On Saturday the 20th of November, I was working behind the bar, my first full night of being in charge.  The place only bloody had a fire (in the lounge bar, not the function room we were working in).  Anyway, Jonathan (Buzza), me and the two bouncers evacuated the Club house even though we extinguished the first fire.  Sadly, the fire must have reignited whilst we had been clearing the building.  Before long the lounge bar was devastated!  A sad day for the football club, and its interior decorated in historical memorabilia. I remember the sad eyes of Rhun Owens, then-long serving and devoted club secretary when he arrived to the smouldering remains.

 

On the 27th of November my-then brief ex-girlfriend Lisa Bates held a video night at her house in Borth.  She had provided enough of a buffet spread to serve a Glastonbury crowd twice-over, alongside enough spirits and wine to provide Borth with a new pub.  There was at one tsage twelve people watching movies in her lounge.  By sleeping time, Claire and Paul had gone to use Lisa’s bed, Lisa had gone to her spare room, Nikki, Rob, Rich and I were camped in the lounge.  I fell asleep the soonest; shattered by incessant tooth pain.

 

The funfair used to arrive in Aberystwyth on the last two Mondays of November, and the first Monday of December.  Never-the-less, Nikki, Rob, Lisa, Louise, Laura and Wyn joined me for the final two Mondays.  The Crazy Mouse rollercoaster (it claimed to be the largest mobile rollercoaster in Europe) and the extremely high G-Force were brilliant but I enjoyed going on other smaller rides, usually with Nikki, who was the most daring of the group! Our group being who they are we went on some fairground stalls and won some raffles.  I won three Caterpillars (of which I asked Nikki to mind one) and Rob, Lisa, Louise, and Nikki all won cuddly toys ranging from unicorns to monkeys. I never had luck with these stalls, usually.

 

The 7th of December arrived.  The day the tooth was to be removed.  I was so nervous I couldn’t eat breakfast.  At 12pm, the dental surgeon/devil was deep into the process of making me feel as uncomfortable as possible.  I have to say, that day was one of the scariest days of my life.  Did it hurt?  IT BLOODY WELL DID!  Half hour of X-rays, 15 minutes of assessment, 10 minutes of numbing my jaw off, and the final quick extraction, followed by a click as a crack in the jaw slammed shut, alongside me fainting on the way downstairs, did not make for an entertaining day.  The headache I had upon to then, for at least 4 months vanished immediately, and I will admit I was a tad dazed, confused, and physically tired.  Mentally I was shattered, but that didn’t take much.  That day I was driven back to Aber, via Bangor City versus Aberystwyth Town’s games (shhhh!), after all I just wanted my own bed, and to get back to normal.  On arrival back into Aber, I went round to Nikki’s and chilled with her and Rob.  I didn’t want to be alone.  I wanted to see Nikki, and get a good hug!  The next day I missed the 1-2pm lecture, favouring sleep.  I was going to for a gentle stroll in the evening, but decided on going to training with Penparcau FC.  You know how it is.  That was the best three-hour evening session I’ve ever done.  In reality, I was back, back and ready to go.  After that session, Nikki came around and gave me the best hug I had ever had, lasting a good few hours.  For some unknown reason we watched Santa Clause 2, The Aristocats, and GCSE Bytesize until 4am.  I let Nikki use Nige’s room (whilst he was away) for some sleep, as I collapsed in bed.  On Thursday night, Nikki came around again, which was wonderful, as she is great company and really friendly lass.  Yet again we watched DVDs into the early hours, but this time the hug was more warmly, and the urge to kiss her became overpowering.  However, all the signs were there for a kiss, but I didn’t want to risk our friendship.  I mean I’d fancied her since I set eyes on her in September’s Marine Biology field course.  Hands were close, arms wrapped around each other, heads leaning by each other, cheeks rubbing, and eventually the courage came to share a kiss.

On Saturday, I played for Penparcau out in Llanrhystud, scoring a crucial extra-time goal, we won 5-2.  That evening Nikki invited me to her friend Krissey’s roast dinner.  We went all the way to Trawsgoed.  The journey was a pleasant drive through the backs and beyond of Welsh countryside.  An excellent meal cooked by Krissey and her boyfriend later, a long chat with Nikki’s mates Harvey and Deanna before setting off back to Aber under the cloudless black sky. On the Sunday I missed playing football for the UWA Greens in the Dig’s League.  I took Nikki for Sunday lunch at Harley’s.  Things felt amazing.  I mean I’ve had strong feelings before for particular ladies, but at that time it was off the Richter scale.  On Tuesday night, Nikki made me stir-fry at mine.  It certainly beat the pasta I made for her on Wednesday night!  Ah, Wednesday night, a night of torture in training.  A 20-minute beach shuttle-run session, and long jog just to punish players for not turning up to training, proved to tire me out.  I could feel the aches and strains long into the evening!  I always give my excuses in well before not turning up!  But still teams get punished not individuals, but it does make you feel a damn bit fitter!

On Friday we went out for Nikki’s birthday, dressed as angels and devils.  Naturally I’m an angel, so I fancied a change and was as a devil (even though I hate red!).  We started at Nikki’s flat drinking Taboo etc.  In the Academy we met Gav Allen and a few other footy lads.  Not many drinks later we arrived at a heaving Varsity, where I lost my white-chocolate-vodka-virginity.  Interesting drink, looks like Rhino semen, tastes like rubber-chocolate.  In the Cambrian we had a few cocktails, as Laura and Debbie chatted up the bar stewards.  One taxi journey uphill later, and into the Union we went.  Good old Move night, and a great night.  Eventually 12am came And Nikki turned 22.  An amazing night and the Union managed an extra half hour of Christmas songs post-bar-closing.  On Nikki’s birthday we went for a cooked-breakfast, and then we strolled up the seafront and generally enjoyed the day.  I cooked a pizza (cheating with pre-made bases this time!) and we watched a film, and then Match of the Day. A leopard can’t change spots for stripes.  On Sunday, we separated for awhile.  Nikki had to tidy her house, and I had to tidy mine.  On Monday morning Nikki went home (Cornwall!) and so did I – for Christmas!   Over the Christmas holidays, I was mostly working on my University project work, and ringing the land of pasties to see how Nikki was. The easy thing about being with Nikki was we both allowed time to get to know each other and never rushed into anything.  The hugs and kisses we shared made me tingle and feel wanted; something I cannot claim to have felt before sharing these special moments with Nikki.

I haven’t really described Nikki, but even if I did, so I might as well try to remember her bac k then.  Nikki was kind, caring, interesting, articulate, cheeky as a monkey, lovely, warm, gentle, and everything a dream about a great partner would contain.  Nikki spent a year away from University working in New Zealand and seemed an expert on there!  Nikki and I got on so well because our interests were alike, she loves comedy as much as I do (but she quoted Little Britain more than I cared for!).  She was sporty (plays netball, watches rugby etc), and I’m football crazy, football mad!  There were lots of things for us to do, see and learn, and at the time I believed Nikki would be the one! At one time I was a city boy, lost in its vastness and devoid of any feelings for someone, but in the town of Aberystwyth I fell for Nikki.  That secluded spot revealed that I was no longer concealed behind a window, peering out at the views below and across. For then, I was free from that prison, free to dream once more, free to feel hope and push aside fear.  I didn’t feel like the luckiest guy in Aberystwyth, more like the luckiest person on Earth, or maybe the Universe, because somebody believed in me and cared for me, in ways that I hadn’t experienced.

Regular phone talk of when we would see each other again, and desires for the day to arrive carried us through the Christmas period.  We had arranged to spend the New Year in Aber.  The last hours of 2004, and the first few of 2005 were to be spent in the Glengower.  New Year’s celebrations at The Glengower’s Western Night were quieter than we all anticipated, however with me and Nikki, Rob and Lisa, Laura and Wyn, and Susan it was a fun night.  I was content with spending those moments in Aber. Back home, my one-time secondary school friend Emma looked at a picture of Nikki.  Em accused Nikki of being just a pretty face, which wasn’t fair as Nikki had a great arse and lovely legs too!  Nikki departed Aber on the Bank Holiday Monday of the 3rd; the day Penrhyncoch Reserves beat Penparcau 2-1 (They did field four Cymru Alliance players and a Welsh Premier player! It was a hellish hard game.).  Nikki had to finish her family holiday away. At least at home in Cornwall, she could concentrate on revision without having Mr Procrastinator 2001-4 distracting her. My personal revision was chugging along slowly.  One exam was so mentally hard, because I had tunnel-vision and desired to read up on other subjects too. I’d even spent hours writing a season of ideas for Aberystwyth Town’s football programme. I was not cut out for studying… or focused…

TO BE CONTINUED